The macroeconomics of the mining industry are changing. The easy and accessible mines have been mined, which brings new requirements for mining equipment suppliers, like increased safety requirements, cost per ton optimization, and durability in extreme conditions. Before introducing any mine automation system, knowing exactly what was happening in the mines at an operational level was a challenge.
Sandvik pioneered a fundamentally different way of combining the mechatronics, control & safety technology and ICT technology to create an exceptional innovation that changed the mining industry. Technology enables smart machines to function in narrow tunnels without an in-machine operator, promoting safety, while also increasing both efficiency and productivity. Sandvik chose Symbio as their technology partner, because of Symbio’s strong background in Microsoft technologies and quality assurance along with global capability and scalability. Symbio’s team of experts were integrated seamlessly as part of Sandvik’s team – being able to implement ideas rapidly and prototyping different solutions, which were then pivoted to verify the concepts against customer requirements. As such, AutoMine Lite and AutoMine Process Management were refined as the industry-leading solutions they are today.
Microsoft based technology platform was selected, because the lifespan of both products require HW and SW compatibility, and long-term technology support. By using Microsoft’s offering, that support was guaranteed. Other benefits included best available support for cameras, safety systems and other hardware used. An excellent development environment which included Visual Studio, SQL Server and the .NET Framework ensured rapid software development and quick deployment for quality assurance with actual hardware and machinery.
AutoMine Lite allows a single loader to operate without an operator in the machine. Monitored remotely and allowing the operator to take control only if needed enforces the ‘Safety First’ priority. AutoMine Process Management gives a great level of refinement in the monitoring and feedback loop in traditional mines. With the usage of tablet devices, the mine’s control room and shift supervisors can be immediately notified of progress, and also of any issues with the machines or locations directly, which can then be addressed in the same shift.
Co-creation required openness to learn and build together, and the results were great. The safety requirements were met with zero accidents when the systems were in place, productivity increased by an estimated 25% and the capacity by 30%, and systems ability to optimize usage for less wear and tear increased the device lifespan expectancy by 50%.
The outside world also recognized Sandvik’s position as the pioneer of mining automation. Sandvik was listed as one of the top 100 most innovative companies in the world by Reuters, and the AutoMine solution was awarded with the Finnish Engineering award 2013.
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